Protecting Ambassador Health

From 700 pound brown bears to tiny reptiles we care for more than 75 different Animal Ambassadors full time! That means more than just meals and housekeeping. We provide regular health checks and medical screenings for the Animal Ambassadors, and some of the critters in our care need more help than others.


The most extensive routine care is called an Annual Exam. These most often involve sedating an animal. We collect weight and vitals, perform x-rays, and check the body condition, skin, hair/feathers, mouth and eyes. We often take a blood sample and some animals get their teeth cleaned or other procedures done during their Annual Exam. The king vultures Monte and Kia recently had a medical check.

The large king vultures birds were sedated one at a time and clinic staff trimmed their beaks and filed down their talons. The also got x-rays while under sedation.


We also perform Health Checks on many species every 3-4 months. Just like humans, as animals age they can face new challenges and develop conditions that impact their well being. This is the case with animals who also have known disabilities or health issues. Ms. Jefferson, the bald eagle, suffers from severe arthritis in both wings which was caused from injuries when she was a juvenile in the wild. On top of getting medication twice a day for her arthritis she also has regular health checks to assess her wellbeing. These are less formal and rigorous than the Medical Checks and can often happen inside or right outside an animals enclosure.

During a procedure, keepers must hold Ms. Jefferson differently than other eagles due to her previous injuries.


Many of the Animal Ambassadors at Wildlife Images have arrived here because they needed special care. This is often due to a previous owner not meeting a species unique needs. Charlie, the Chinese water dragon, is an Animal Ambassador who lives in Robert’s Reptile Room. She came to us from a private owner who did not care for her properly. This left her with metabolic bone disease so we must be gentle when treating her for mouth rot.  Before Charlie lived here, her mouth was injured on a fan. Twice a day she gets medication and her mouth is rinsed out. Even reptile experts find Chinese water dragons to be difficult species to care for properly.

Charlie bites on a soft spatula so staff can rinse her mouth out and slow the impacts of her condition.


Animal Ambassadors also can get sick or inquired just like they do in the wild. Injury and illness are much less common thanks to precautions such as our staff disinfecting before going into enclosures, thorough cleaning and safe habitats, but no matter how hard we try, we can’t protect our critters from everything. Nubs the North American badger loves to burrow and in the winter he enters a torpor state which leaves him tucked in his den, head in the dirt for most of the day. This leaves him susceptible to conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye. While he doesn’t come down with pink eye very often, or even every winter, his handlers know to keep a close eye 😉 on him once he begins spending more time in his den. Luckily, treating Nubs for pink eye is easier than treating a toddler.

Nubs tolerates this treatment well since his handlers have created a trusting relationship with him.